An Unplugged Road Trip, With Kids

The book I had was yellow. I think it had at least 5,000 pages, or it seemed that way as a kid. Really, I had that Peanuts book for years and never ran out of pages to color. And I colored a lot – I was an only child, so. I had a lot of time to fill.

I took it, and a container of crayons, with me on every trip. If it was a flight, it went in my backpack. If it was a road trip, it got tossed into the backseat that I would have all to myself. I’d also bring my discman and a couple CDs (if we’re being honest, they were probably En Vogue and the Aladdin soundtrack).

And I never died.

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“Trying to touch the trees on the side” is always a fun game.

Even when my batteries ran out on my discman. I still lived. I just listened to the Steve Winwood tape my parents would be playing as we drove through places that only supported Christian or talk radio. Nothing against either – they just weren’t music and we’re not churchgoers.

I’d survive those rides by looking out the window, daydreaming, coloring, sleeping and snacking. I was good at all of that, and all of that helped the ride go by. I could never read in the car because if I did, we’d have to play the “Let’s clean up Lisa’s puke” game, which no one ever wanted to play.

“Can I watch a movie on my phone?”

That came from our backseat recently, even though it’s long been established that we don’t do electronics on the road. A “No” was tossed back from the front seat. And it wasn’t because we’re mean. We just don’t want to live with zombies and we know we survived a childhood that didn’t require WiFi, so they can, too.

I recently asked a handful of super talented and smart moms about their memories of childhood road trips – the ones that didn’t require a USB cord or a good signal. And their responses were perfect.

They’d play the ABC game, working through the alphabet by finding words on signs or license plates as they drove. They’d play hangman – and one even said her dad administered “verbal hangman,” which left me so intrigued!

Others said they would listen to music or fight with their siblings (which is TOTALLY NORMAL but something every parent is hoping to minimize for everyone’s sanity). And one lady said – might be my favorite – that her parents would toss a mattress in the back of the truck, click on a cab and supply them with markers, crayons and paper to color.

How awesome is that? It must have felt like the coolest little fort on wheels.

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If it was cold, you could fog up the windows and use your finger to write messages. There’s always Tic-Tac-Toe and Rock-Paper-Scissors. Mad Libs never under-delivers (and sometimes makes you pee a little) and I Spy is perpetually available no matter where you are.

The one that made me laugh the most was The Quiet Game. What genius parent made that up? Because it has endured generations. Somehow, kids still play it. And it requires NOTHING.

We, like many families, are headed out on the road soon. For a while. And it just made me think, because we will be spending hours and hours together on our way to new things.

I may pick up field journals. We might snag postcards they can write to themselves and send along the way. We’re stocked with individual white boards and markers, handheld puzzles and brain teasers – and I may go search for some riddles and scavenger hunts.

I might even snag a huge thing of yarn so they can play cat’s cradle or learn how to make those finger-loop bracelets we all used to make. Remember those?  Or the hemp ones?

Considering the number of miles we’re about to click off, they might emerge looking like Dead Heads if we learn how to make those bracelets. Sounds like a plan.

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